"A Tale of Two Cities," Part 2: Chapters 15-24

The French Revolution comes vividly to life in this novel by Charles Dickens: "A Tale of Two Cities," (1859)

Learn these word lists: Part 1, Part 2: Chapters 1-14, Part 2: Chapters 15-24, and Part 3.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. sallow
    unhealthy looking
    As early as six o'clock in the morning, sallow faces peeping through its barred windows had descried other faces within, bending over measures of wine.
  2. notwithstanding
    despite anything to the contrary
    Notwithstanding an unusual flow of company, the master of the wine- shop was not visible.
  3. inaudible
    impossible to hear; imperceptible by the ear
    Games at cards languished, players at dominoes musingly built towers with them, drinkers drew figures on the tables with spilt drops of wine, Madame Defarge herself picked out the pattern on her sleeve with her toothpick, and saw and heard something inaudible and invisible a long way off.
  4. subdued
    in a softened tone
    Defarge closed the door carefully, and spoke in a subdued voice:
  5. infallible
    incapable of failure or error
    Again the mender of roads went through the whole performance; in which he ought to have been perfect by that time, seeing that it had been the infallible resource and indispensable entertainment of his village during a whole year.
  6. precipitate
    hurl or throw violently
    Ah, but he would be well content to precipitate himself over the hill-side once again, as on the evening when he and I first encountered, close to the same spot!"
  7. mar
    render imperfect
    Observant of his unwillingness to mar the effect by opening it again, Defarge said, "Go on, Jacques."
  8. lofty
    of imposing height; especially standing out above others
    There I see him, high up, behind the bars of a lofty iron cage, bloody and dusty as last night, looking through.
  9. flay
    strip the skin off
    For, he contended with himself that it was impossible to foresee what that lady might pretend next; and he felt assured that if she should take it into her brightly ornamented head to pretend that she had seen him do a murder and afterwards flay the victim, she would infallibly go through with it until the play was played out.
  10. amicably
    in a friendly manner
    MADAME DEFARGE and monsieur her husband returned amicably to the bosom of Saint Antoine, while a speck in a blue cap toiled through the darkness, and through the dust, and down the weary miles of avenue by the wayside, slowly tending towards that point of the compass where the chateau of Monsieur the Marquis, now in his grave, listened to the whispering trees.
    Compare with the vocabulary word "amiably" (in Part 3).
  11. olfactory
    of or relating to the sense of smell
    Monsieur Defarge's olfactory sense was by no means delicate, but the stock of wine smelt much stronger than it ever tasted, and so did the stock of rum and brandy and aniseed.
  12. assiduously
    with care and persistence
    Next noontide saw the admirable woman in her usual place in the wine-shop, knitting away assiduously.
  13. antecedent
    a preceding occurrence or cause or event
    It was the first time it had ever been so complemented, and Madame Defarge knew enough of its antecedents to know better.
  14. discomfit
    cause to lose one's composure
    "It is all the same," said the spy, airily, but discomfited too: "good day!"
  15. brevity
    the attribute of being short or fleeting
    He had had it conveyed to him, in an accidental touch of his wife's elbow as she knitted and warbled, that he would do best to answer, but always with brevity.
  16. grate
    furnish with a frame of iron bars
    I have seen her image in the moonlight often, as I now see you; except that I never held her in my arms; it stood between the little grated window and the door.
    This word is used several times in A Tale of Two Cities. It is a repeated symbol that tries to bring up the state of imprisonment, which is an important theme in the book.
  17. apocryphal
    being of questionable authenticity
    The marriage was to 
make no change in their place of residence; they had been able to extend it, by taking to themselves the upper rooms formerly belonging to the apocryphal invisible lodger, and they desired nothing more.
  18. resolute
    firm in purpose or belief
    A more remarkable face in its quiet, resolute, and guarded struggle with an unseen assailant, was not to be beheld in all the wide dominions of sleep, that night.
  19. fortnight
    a period of fourteen consecutive days
    You leave your good father, my dear, in hands as earnest and as loving as your own; he shall be taken every conceivable care of; during the next fortnight, while you are in Warwickshire and thereabouts, even Tellson's shall go to the wall (comparatively speaking) before him.
  20. furtively
    in a secretive manner
    The only ray of hope that Mr. Lorry could discover, was, that he sometimes furtively looked up without being asked.
  21. nimble
    moving quickly and lightly
    The secret was well kept, and Lucie was unconscious and happy; but he could not fail to observe that the shoemaker, whose hand had been a little out at first, was growing dreadfully skilful, and that he had never been so intent on his work, and that his hands had never been so nimble and expert, as in the dusk of the ninth evening.
  22. explicit
    precisely and clearly expressed or readily observable
    "Be explicit," said the Doctor.
  23. infer
    conclude by reasoning
    I infer," glancing at his hands again, "in the resumption of some old pursuit connected with the shock?"
  24. abate
    make less active or intense
    It was not for his friend to abate that confidence.
  25. fidelity
    the quality of being faithful
    He was not improved in habits, or in looks, or in manner; but there was a certain rugged air of fidelity about him, which was new to the observation of Charles Darnay.
  26. forlorn
    marked by or showing hopelessness
    If one forlorn wanderer then pacing the dark streets, could have heard her innocent disclosure, and could have seen the drops of pity kissed away by her husband from the soft blue eyes so loving of that husband, he might have cried to the night -- and the words would not have parted from his lips for the first time --
  27. turbid
    clouded as with sediment
    Mr. Stryver shouldered his way through the law, like some great engine forcing itself through turbid water, and dragged his useful friend in his wake, like a boat towed astern.
  28. plight
    a situation from which extrication is difficult
    As the boat so favoured is usually in a rough plight, and mostly under water, so, Sydney had a swamped life of it.
  29. implement
    a piece of equipment or a tool used for a specific purpose
    Madame's resolute right hand was occupied with an axe, in place of the usual softer implements, and in her girdle were a pistol and a cruel knife.
  30. inundation
    the overflowing of a body of water onto normally dry land
    Their three heads had been close together during this brief discourse, and it had been as much as they could do to hear one another, even then: so tremendous was the noise of the living ocean, in its irruption into the Fortress, and its inundation of the courts and passages and staircases.
    Compare with the vocabulary word "deluge" (in Part 3). The image in this sentence of the sounds going into the fortress, up the stairs and through the halls, is a direct metaphor to what had happened before the events in the book, when the lower classes rushed into the same spaces when they were taking over the country and executing the aristocracy.
  31. modicum
    a small or moderate or token amount
    HAGGARD SAINT ANTOINE had had only one exultant week, in which to soften his modicum of hard and bitter bread to such extent as he could, with the relish of fraternal embraces and congratulations, when Madame Defarge sat at her counter, as usual, presiding over the customers.
  32. caste
    a social class separated by distinctions of hereditary rank
    No. The change consisted in the appearance of strange faces of low caste, rather than in the disappearance of the high caste, chiselled, and otherwise beautified and beautifying features of Monseigneur.
  33. attenuated
    reduced in strength
    The bronze face, the shaggy black hair and beard, the coarse woollen red cap, the rough medley dress of home-spun stuff and hairy skins of beasts, the powerful frame attenuated by spare living, and the sullen and desperate compression of the lips in sleep, inspired the mender of roads with awe.
  34. parapet
    fortification consisting of a low wall
    The result of that conference was, that Gabelle again withdrew himself to his housetop behind his stack of chimneys; this time resolved, if his door were broken in (he was a small Southern man of retaliative temperament), to pitch himself head foremost over the parapet, and crush a man or two below.
  35. munificent
    very generous
    Again: Tellson's was a munificent house, and extended great liberality to old customers who had fallen from their high estate.
  36. latent
    potentially existing but not presently evident or realized
    And it was such vapouring all about his ears, like a troublesome confusion of blood in his own head, added to a latent uneasiness in his mind, which had already made Charles Darnay restless, and which still kept him so.
  37. disparaging
    expressive of low opinion
held the letter out inquiringly; and Monseigneur looked at it, in the person of this plotting and indignant refugee; and Monseigneur looked at it in the person of that plotting and indignant refugee; and This, That, and The Other, all had something disparaging to say, in French or in English, concerning the Marquis who was not to be found.
  38. raze
    tear down so as to make flat with the ground
    Nor is that all; my house has been destroyed -- razed to the ground.
    "Raze" can be confused with the word, raise, but the meaning, in a way, is almost the opposite.
  39. dolorous
    showing sorrow
    "From this prison here of horror, whence I every hour tend nearer and nearer to destruction, I send you, Monsieur heretofore the Marquis, the assurance of my dolorous and unhappy service.
  40. sanguine
    confidently optimistic and cheerful
    Then, that glorious vision of doing good, which is so often the sanguine mirage of so many good minds, arose before him, and he even saw himself in the illusion with some influence to guide this raging Revolution that was running so fearfully wild.

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